Nokia needs to impress at CTIA

Most analysts believe that no feature phones will be able to break through the noise created by the iPhone, but that doesn't mean some handset makers won't try at this year's CTIA Wireless 2008. According to Strategy Analytics analyst Bonny Joy, at least one handset maker needs to try. "The most interesting activity in the handset space will be around Nokia," Joy said. "After losing market share in the U.S. for the past couple of years, Nokia needs to make a big impression on U.S. carriers at CTIA."

According to Joy, in 2006 Nokia had about 14 percent market share for handsets in the U.S., but that dropped below 10 percent in 2007. "The pressure is on Nokia to deliver mass market products with one or two major carriers," Joy said. "We expect the handset maker to focus on Verizon Wireless and AT&T for their new handsets. That should be their priority--otherwise, they are in deep trouble."

Of course, that doesn't mean other handset makers are going to rest on their laurels. Traditionally, CTIA Wireless has been a springboard for both Samsung and LG to announce their new feature handsets. While no phones have been leaked to the press, analysts expect the two companies to offer at least one phone each that is in the price range of Apple's iPhone or Nokia's N95. Some speculate that Samsung could launch a device like its S700 in the U.S., which would run on an HSDPA network.

ZTE and Huawei are also expected to announce handsets that run on the AWS band in an attempt to ink carriage deals with Leap Wireless, MetroPCS and other smaller carriers with AWS spectrum.

Struggling handset maker Motorola is expected to be all but absent from the show. One analyst, who wished to speak on background only, predicted that Motorola wouldn't make any big handset launches for at least the next four to six months.

Of course, with all the hype surrounding Google's recently announced Android operating system, the OS crowd could steal the spotlight from handsets at the April event. Many of the companies in Google's Open Handset Alliance are based in the U.S., so it is likely that a number of prototypes running Android will appear at the show. Since both Sprint and T-Mobile USA have announced support for Android, it's possible we could even hear a definitive launch date for an Android-powered device. -Brian